Last year I had the privilege of working in an organisation that had a collaboration with an American University. It was an exciting time for me, learning how medical school curriculum can be delivered within four years and attending workshops and conferences by American colleagues.

One thing that struck me the most, in comparison with other medical conferences and presentations, all the Americans began their presentations with a statement regarding conflict of interest.

I loved it.

It’s only when we understand a persons motivation may we truly know what they are trying to say.

I have to say I have no conflict of interest with the subject that I am about to write at present time. Rather, I ask the audience to dwell on this every time they read statement made by any person regarding any medical issue.

In many medical journals, you will read at the end of an article or sometimes at the beginning, depending, whether or not the author has any ‘conflict of interest’. What this means is that, if the researcher is doing a research regarding a new medication for hypertension, and the researcher has invested in shares of the same company, or the researcher has a say in which medication is being purchased by an organisation, for example, a hospital, to treat hypertension, then there is potential for conflict of interest.

How does the conflict of interest arise?

If the research actually shows that the new medication is not as effective as promised, would the researcher be able to be completely honest, knowing that revealing the truth will cause a plummet in the share prices and thus his investment? Even if the researcher’s wife had shares in the company, this would already be a potential source of ‘conflict of interest’.

It does not mean that the person who has the conflict of interest may not express his/her opinion, rather the readers are made aware of this association and be cautious of how it may influence a persons narrative of a situation.

Today, there are many critics of doctors and the health ministry on the social media.

We find that the majority, if not all, have conflict of interest behind their stance.

Those who were the most vocal ‘anti-vaccines’ turn out to be sellers of ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ health care products or services.

Those who criticise the Ministry of Health’s temporary ban on waterbirth actually provide ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ forms of delivery/ante-natal or post natal care.

What is my point?

By doing that, by painting a bad image of conventional health care, saying vaccines are dangerous and creating a expectation of ‘the perfect delivery’ by portraying delivery at hospitals to be a bad experience, they are potentially creating more customers for their own businesses, or attracting more customers to their ‘clinics’ as they have a more ‘friendly’ or ‘kinder’ stance towards those who are anti-vaccine.

To be frank, I have nothing against alternative or complementary forms of “medicine” that are proven to be safe. I will not say safe AND effective because as to date, as far as I am aware, and please correct me if I am wrong, none has been shown to be more effective than that of conventional medicine (except for cough medicine, which apart from the general practitioner office, is hardly used is other areas of medicine).

Even so, the use of complementary “medicine” must be guided and used only with the knowledge and permission of the doctor, especially in patients who are at the extreme of ages, have serious medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, have multiple medical conditions, these are the exact patients in whom interaction between ‘alternative medicine’ which exact contents are often unknown, can cause serious and potentially fatal consequences due to interactions with the patients actual conventional medicine, either by causing a reduced effectiveness of the patients conventional medicine, or by side effects of the alternative medicine contents which are unknown (and several were found to have steroids).

So be careful who you decide to believe, and what you believe. Always investigate the source of your information.

It takes more than just law school to become a good lawyer…

Author declares no conflict of interest.